One thing that you can always count on a couple of times a day in my hometown of Chicago is rush hour traffic. It seems that never have so many people been in such a hurry to get somewhere at the same time since the great Oklahoma land rush. And tens of thousands of urbanites and suburbanites routinely battle it… twice a day as part of their lives resulting in high blood pressure and record stress levels. They creep along in bumper-to-bumper traffic grumbling about the situation while ignoring the lost opportunity to capture what could be their most valuable personal time of the day. Welcome to “University on Wheels.”
A couple thoughts... First of all, we should never fail to recognize a chance to make better use of our time. Secondly, I cannot help to wonder whatever happened to the theory of the almost forgotten ‘80’s… that “flex time” was coming to make our lives more pleasant and manageable for commuters? I guess that concept flew out the back window along with the wave to metric conversion… remember, the movement that was going to simplify our lives and make us more like our European neighbors? But it too, never came. Must have been that pushback that we Americans are so well known for when it comes to being asked to change our habits.
Rather than spending our time and energy being upset over something that is totally out of our control, like the obligatory rush hour crunch of people, we should choose to adapt to our environment and get creative. The opportunity and the answer is right before our eyes and well within our grasp. Despite the steady crawl of traffic and the angst that it can produce, I suggest using the daily commute time in the car, bus or train to learn a new language, listen to motivational audio, or enjoy a good audio book novel. It is, simply put, making the most of what some folks see as a bad situation.
A close friend who is certainly a classic “Type A” personality and a CEO of a large corporation is constantly on the phone from the moment he arrives at his office, until the moment he leaves, so he chose to dare to be different by maintaining his two hours-plus drive to-and-from the office as his personal sanctuary time. It is his way of escaping from all of the chaos and interruptions of the day. He has made a conscious decision to just say no to cell phone conversations made or taken during his quiet, personal time. He has chosen to work on learning to speak Japanese and he thinks of his commute as his classroom time transforming his car into his personal place of knowledge. It has become his peaceful way to start the day and a serene reward at the end of a productive day at the office. Amazingly, the slow crawl of the traffic is no longer a source of anxiety. It is a bonus time to work on his self-improvement. His “University on Wheels” approach has lowered his stress level and allowed him the time to dedicate his attention to something that he has wanted to do for years, but always said, where will I find the time? Proof once again, that if we take nearly any problem and focus instead on a solution, we often discover that the situation can be turned to our advantage. President Abraham Lincoln once said, “I have little respect for a man who is not smarter today than he was yesterday.” Ask yourself the same question that we used to ask our children… what did you learn in school today? Well… what did YOU learn?